Earlier this week, when I saw the news that former congressional candidate Emily Cain would again be running in Maine’s 2nd District, I had to do a double take. It wasn’t that Cain’s second run was such a galloping shock; indeed, it was pretty much a given. What I had to check was the calendar, to make sure of the year.
It’s still 2015, right? I didn’t pull a Rip Van Winkle and sleep through the entire year, did I? If so, that would’ve been a bummer. I was really looking forward to baseball season. Like most of you, I was wondering if the Red Sox would be able to work out the mess that is their rotation; whether Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia would bounce back; how Hanley Ramirez would work out.
Nope, it’s still 2015. Here was Emily Cain, announcing her run for the U.S. House a full 20 months before the election. Out in California, where they have a rare open U.S. Senate seat, people have just started declaring their candidacies. In Maryland, longtime U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski just announced that she wouldn’t be running again. At the recently-concluded Conservative Political Action Conference, it was a bunch of potential presidential candidates who were speaking, because none of them had officially declared yet. Hillary Clinton, of course, is too busy sorting through emails to make her decision about 2016.
Now, it’s not uncommon for incumbents to file for reelection early; indeed, Bruce Poliquin already has. This is usually more of a technicality so that they can fundraise rather than an official announcement, however. A challenger announcing her candidacy this early is unheard of, especially in Maine. Usually, when a candidate announces his or her campaign this early, the contender is a fringe candidate who has no chance of winning, not someone recruited by party leadership.
Yet here in Maine, in a rural House district, Emily Cain has already decided to run for Congress again. In her election night concession speech (which is mysteriously missing from her revamped website) Cain said she wanted people to “come together, find consensus, and stay at the table until problems are solved.” However, by announcing so ridiculously early, she’s helping to extend the culture of permanent campaigning that has led to Washington, D.C., being so polarized. She’s only given Poliquin two months to govern without an opponent. She’s single-handedly created Maine’s first 20-month congressional campaign.
For someone who spent much of the last campaign running on bipartisanship, this is especially striking. Her early declaration shows that was just empty rhetoric. If she were really interested in bipartisanship, she’d give Poliquin a chance to actually govern for a few more months before deciding whether to run against him again. She’d wait and see how he worked with the other party and what he was able to accomplish.
Instead, she’s saying that none of that really matters: She’s a Democrat and Poliquin is a Republican, so she’s going to try and defeat him. Her decision is all about partisan politics, not about whether the incumbent is doing a good job for the people of the district.
This approach stands in stark contrast to Poliquin. While Cain demonstrates her undying loyalty to her own political party, Poliquin has already gone against his party in a key vote and taken flack from his supporters for it. While Emily Cain wages her permanent campaign, Bruce Poliquin will be down in D.C. fighting to get things done. That’s the difference between rhetoric and reality.